The New Mommy Guilt: Putting Your Parent in a Care Facility

National Family Caregivers Month

In celebration of National Family Caregivers Month, we’re sharing the stories of other bloggers and caregivers. Today guest blogger, Michele Morin, writes about the new mommy guilt and how she combats it.

I heard her footsteps on the stairs last night—jolted out of a sound sleep and into the familiar world of worry.

Step, click, pause.

The foot, the cane, the balance check.

Exhaling in the dark, I realized . . . no. I had been dreaming. She’s not here anymore. She’s walking in safety now, through hallways with sturdy rails, assisted by MAs and CNAs and an alphabet soup of helpers who tend to her every need.

Although I understand that she will not shower at their recommendation either.
For weeks, I rehearsed the words I would use: “Mum, you know that it’s getting harder and more risky for you to be walking around the house. Your eyesight is getting dimmer, your balance and strength less reliable. You cry every day over the walk to the bathroom. It’s time for us to find a safer place for you with people who can care for you.”

Will this decision ever stop feeling like a thing that needs forgiveness?

I used to say that homeschooling my children was the hardest thing that I had ever done, but after after…

Five years of arguing against irrational choices (No, Mum, people with glaucoma cannot cancel their eye doctor appointments).

Five years of attempting to meet unreasonable demands (Mum, we just had hot dogs two nights ago. I can’t feed the family hot dogs every night).

Five years of defending boundaries and clinging to reasonable parameters of sane living (Ple-e-e-ease don’t put your fingers in the serving dishes).

I thought I had identified my new “hardest thing.”

I was wrong.

As hard as it was to say yes to my mother’s request to live with us; as exhausting as it was to insist that she make good choices and then shift gears for the same kinds of conversations with four teen and tween sons; as discouraging as it was to find the same bathroom catastrophes on a daily basis—none of this compares to the process of moving her to a nursing home.

As Mum raged and refused, the paperwork process halted and jolted over ground that I thought I had already covered.

With her acquiescence came a slow smolder, and I could see that she did not believe that she was in any real danger in our home—any more than she believed me when I told her that her 3:00 a.m. movie marathons were waking me up.

“You can’t hear that TV through two closed doors!”

“Oh, yes, Mum. I can. Believe me, I can.”

A friend gave me some old pictures of my family the other day. I was in my twenties, my sister was visiting from Alaska, and my mum was just about the age I am today. She was smiling—the kind of smile that lingers after a good hard laugh. Those occasions became fewer as her days of caring for my dad came to a close. She bundled up his worldly goods and shipped them out the day he died along with any expectation of happiness beyond the radius of her chair and the nearest television screen.

When Mum asked to come and live with us, I imagined, briefly, that somehow this would redeem our relationship; that God would use Mum’s final years as a sort of rebuilding of the desolate places that Isaiah wrote about when he predicted a way of salvation from ruin through a Messiah who said:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me
Because the LORD has anointed Me . . .
To comfort all who mourn . . .
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD,
That He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1, 2, 3

That was not to be, at least not on this planet.

However, this does not mean that God has not been at work in other ways. I’m still in the process of sifting through the ashes, trusting Him to reveal the beauty, to give meaning to the years of mourning.

I am trusting for “the oil of joy” to lubricate my relationship with nursing home administrators whose frequent messages feel like calls from a school principal about a naughty child.

I am trusting for the “garment of praise” to protect my mind from the false guilt that measures every day and every minute between visits as if I could prove myself worthy of God’s love by winning the dutiful daughter award.

I am trusting for strong roots because I know that there is a generation of young saplings planted and growing who are learning from my husband and me what it means to value life, to respect a person as a bearer of the image of God when that likeness has become obscured by anger, bitterness, and dementia.

We should respect a person because they bear God's image--even when that image is obscured by anger, bitterness & #dementia. Click To Tweet

God is in the process of transforming my immediate and demanding “whys” into “hows”: LORD, how can this whole experience be transformed so that you are glorified in it? And, of course, I do not see the answer yet, but as Isaiah trusted and wrote about a salvation that he did not fully experience on this earth, I am also learning the wisdom of waiting:

“For as the earth brings forth its bud,
And the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”
Isaiah 61:11

Lord, let it be so.

Michelle MorinMichele Morin is the wife to a patient husband, Mum to four young men and a daughter-in-love, and, now, Gram to one adorable grand-boy. Her days are spent homeschooling, reading piles of books, and, in the summer, tending their beautiful (but messy) garden and canning the vegetables. She loves to teach the Bible, and is privileged to gather weekly around a table with the women of her church. You can find her excellent book reviews and other thoughts at Living Our Days where she blogs about the grace she receives and the lessons from God’s Word that she trusts.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Pingback: The New Mommy Guilt: Putting Your Parent in a Care Facility | Living Our Days()

  • Oh Michelle, Anita … this is so moving. We moved here back in July to do life with my parents and my dad died the next day, seemingly out of nowhere. It left us stunned … and our youngest grandchild died two months later.

    It is a hard privilege to walk these difficult pathways with our family, sandwiched between the needs, bound by the love, and claiming the grace to somehow do this balancing act well. And leaning so very hard against the warm and comforting arms of our Savior.

    I so appreciate your story today. Praying that the telling of it here will give you great relief and surround you with a blanket of support …

    Linda Stoll recently posted…Out of Sorts ~ Sarah’s SynchroblogMy Profile

  • Hi Michele, I dont know what to say here! I possibly can’t understand your struggles but somehow I am deeply moved by your story. It must be hard letting ‘mum’ stay there!
    Thanks for sharing your heart, friend.
    Blessings to you
    Ifeoma Samuel recently posted…40 Powerful Prayers For Expectant Moms (free eBook)My Profile

  • I used to foolishly declare that no relative of mine would be in a nursing home if I could help it. That is before I saw the realities of what could happen. 3 of our 4 parents have passed now and the nursing home question never came up, but it still could with our remaining parent. Family caregivers are the real heroes of our everyday world for without them we would have real chaos. God bless you Michele, and remember, as in everything, the intent of the heart is what counts. God knows your heart and your longings for you and your mum’s relationship. I pray He gives you peace about it.
    Jerralea recently posted…F.F.F. – 11.06.15My Profile

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  • Michelle, I so get THIS: “Will this decision ever stop feeling like a thing that needs forgiveness?” I will be sharing our story here on Wednesday. This is never a decision I thought we would have to make but we did. I know she is in a great case, but there is still a part of me that feels guilty and continually feels like she needs to ask forgiveness for that decision.
    Tara recently posted…It Isn’t About Those Cups!My Profile

    • I look forward to reading your words. Thanks for letting me know that you “get” where I’m coming from. It’s a catch 22, isn’t it? You’d feel guilty if you let your loved one stay at home and she fell and suffered unnecessarily. But, ironically, if you take steps to avoid that . . .guilt anyway.
      This has been a lesson in trusting in the grace and wisdom of God — not only to make the right decision, but then to live with it after it’s been made.
      Michele Morin recently posted…The New Mommy Guilt: Putting Your Parent in a Care FacilityMy Profile

  • I dealt with guilt, too, when my m-i-l could not live alone any more and we put her in assisted living rather than have her live in our home. We had valid reasons: our house had stairs, and she was too unsteady to safely use them (though she thought she was fine), we were in the “taxi years” of taking children hither and yon for various activities, and we couldn’t leave her home alone, but she was a homebody who didn’t like traipsing all over, etc., etc. Now she is in our home – after getting down to 90 lbs. in a nursing home, we thought we were bringing her home to die. But she perked up under one-on-one care, gained weight, and thrived. But she has been in a slow decline, is bedridden, can hardly move, and is under hospice care. And I still feel guilty – partly because I struggle over feeling tied down. I don’t know if there is a guilt-free option to taking care of our loved ones except to seek the Lord, and by His grace follow His leading, trusting Him to work all things together for good. I’m going to be writing a post for Anita’s series on caregiver emotions.
    Barbara H. recently posted…Book Review: Knowing GodMy Profile

    • Oh, Barbara, you have been riding a rollercoaster. I have come to the same conclusion as you — there may not be a guilt-free option to taking care of loved ones. Looking forward to reading your upcoming post.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Stone by StoneMy Profile

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  • No guilt! Something I was told recently is that guilt does not do me OR my loved one any good. That helped. I am in a similar situation with my mom, and my brother and I are facing many tough decisions. Thank you so much for sharing. It helps to be with others who are walking a similar road.
    Sara @ The Holy Mess recently posted…How to Exercise When You Don’t Feel Like ItMy Profile

    • Your words are wise — and scriptural. My favorite chapter in Romans starts out: There is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We really have no business weighing ourselves down with a load of false guilt.
      Thanks for reading and for commenting.
      Michele Morin recently posted…When You Don’t Know What to PrayMy Profile

  • Michele (& Anita), thank you for sharing about your journey. Being a caregiver is the hardest part of loving our families. Praying for you, Michele. May our God bring you the peace you need in your decision. May He bring you the assurance that He is with you, even in this. Blessings & a hug to you today!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Nothing is Too HardMy Profile

    • Yes, even in this.
      So often, I want to just fly over the rough spots and get to the wisdom at the end. My prayer throughout this process has been, “Lord, don’t let me waste this.” Thanks, Joanne, for your encouragement in so many ways.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Stone by StoneMy Profile

  • These words speak to me, Michele. I understand the heartache, frustration, and desire to do what is best for your mom. I have gone through the same thing but now it is just my dad and it can be a hard, lonely road. I appreciate you sharing these words here to help all of us who are caregivers for our parents.
    Mary Geisen recently posted…Sitting in the SilenceMy Profile

    • It is a hard road. Being a caregiver changes the relationship so drastically, and there is mourning over the loss of what was. God is faithful even in this.
      So thankful for the encouragement of those who are also walking this path, and it is a blessing to me to hear from you today, Mary.
      Michele Morin recently posted…The New Mommy Guilt: Putting Your Parent in a Care FacilityMy Profile

  • I remember that hard decision too of putting our mom in assisted living when no other options were working. 🙁 Very, very difficult. But we all do the best we can with the information and circumstances we’re given. In the end, I still hope that it was the right thing for my mother—it kept her safe and fed and loved and as healthy as possible despite her advanced Alzheimer’s. Prayers for you as you continue to walk this journey.
    Lisa notes recently posted…Who are you avoiding?My Profile

    • Lisa, I didn’t realize that this was part of your journey as well. It’s rugged, isn’t it, to feel as if you are reducing the decision to a matter of sheer practicality, but when the become so dangerous to themselves, it seems that there is no other way to secure their well-being. I’m thankful that we can trust God with outcome and the end result, but the process . . . so hard.
      Michele Morin recently posted…When You Don’t Know What to PrayMy Profile

  • Michele, your honest words reveal a beautiful heart. It is the love for your mother and the God you represent that weigh your heart down. I pray God’s peace as you continue to walk in His wisdom. Thank you, friend, for sharing your heart at #IntentionalTuesday. : )
    Crystal Storms recently posted…Intentional Tuesday Linkup {Week 42}My Profile

    • Crystal, your words are an encouragement. And, yes, wisdom is so needed in this process of making the decision, and then living it out day by day.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Blessed Are YouMy Profile